The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

July 31, 2019 by  
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If you’re a person who is serious about protecting the environment, you’re probably conscious of how much trash you generate every time you have a period. In addition to being chock-full of plastics sent straight to landfills, pads and tampons also contain harsh chemicals that are toxic . Yet most people continue exposing their bodies to these products month after month. Luckily, there are better options out there for both you and the planet — here’s a guide to help you find what might work best for you. “Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body,” Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote in an alarming Huffington Post article about the dangers of menstrual products. Despite the potential dangers, the chemical ingredients in tampons and pads are an industry secret, protected by nondisclosure policies that favor corporations, manufacturers and innovators but put consumers at serious risk. So if you want to cut down on polluting nature and your body, consider this comprehensive guide on more sustainable product options available right now. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to help determine the best options for you. Menstrual cups Menstrual cups are one of the most eco-friendly options out there. If you can get over the initial learning curve, they are easy and convenient to use. Why we love them Although the up-front sticker price is higher, when you calculate how much you spend every month on tampons or pads, the savings are obvious. The cups are comfortable and barely noticeable once they have been inserted — the same way you might get used to a tampon and hardly realize it is there. They are especially easy for travelers who want to save precious space in their luggage and say goodbye to last-minute, emergency trips to the convenience store. Most cup brands come in multiple sizes and some even come in varying levels of firmness, depending on your preference, flow, age and whether or not you have had a vaginal birth. The cups are capable of handling even heavy flow days, with most users reporting minimal — if any — leaks. Below is a brief review of a few popular brands. Diva Cup ($35) The Diva Cup is the most recognized and popular brand. It has three sizes (including one for teens), lasts up to 12 hours and is made from medical-grade silicone. Sustain Natural Period Cup ($39) These cups are flexible, compact and made entirely of medical-grade silicone . They claim to hold three tampons-worth of liquid and are available in two sizes. This is also the only brand that currently offers a microwave case for cleaning the cup. Peachlife Menstrual Cup ($22) Also made of medical-grade silicone, this cup uniquely comes in a variety of firmness levels (soft, medium-firm and extra-firm). Unlike other brands that come to a point, the Peachlife cup has a silicone ring at the bottom for easy removal (but remember, you still have to break the suction of the cup; you cannot just tug on the ring!). Cups are not without challenges Menstrual cups cannot be recycled at the end of their lifecycles, but when you calculate how many pads and tampons you averted from landfills, this product is worth it. The cups can also be difficult to maneuver at first. Once you have practiced and get the hang of folding the cup, inserting it and then breaking the seal to remove, it’s just as easy as any other option. It typically takes about three periods to fully adapt to using a menstrual cup. Because of cultural and religious beliefs, some people do have objections or hesitations to using a cup. Related: Study shows menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads A new spin on ‘period underwear’ Absorbent underwear brands like THINX and Lunapads are increasing in popularity and market share. They are simply underwear that you wear during your period that are specially manufactured to absorb menstrual blood. Why they’re so easy If you know how to put on your undies, then you know how to use these — they have all other products beat in terms of ease of use. They are also eco-friendly, because you wash and reuse them each time you have your period. That means they do not produce landfill trash every month. The downside of absorbent underwear Period underwear is more expensive than your typical pair of underwear because of their patented absorption technology . You will also need a few pairs depending on the length and flow of your period and how often you’re able to wash and dry them. Like the cups though, when you tally the cost of underwear against lifetime tampon expenses, they’re a smart economic choice. The horrors of tampons and better options “The average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or up to 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy,” said Dr. Mercola. That’s a lot of trash , but it is also a lot of time that your body is exposed to toxic chemicals. Cotton is better; organic cotton is best You may have heard health experts say that cotton underwear is best for promoting vaginal health — the same goes for tampons. Look for brands that specifically say they are made from organic cotton, but assume that most conventional brands are now made from plastics and synthetic materials. These materials are not breathable, can get fragmented and left behind and might encourage health problems like yeast and bacterial growth. Most tampons are also bleached with substances linked to abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth and immune system suppression. Americans use 7 billion tampon applicators every year; the chemicals in the applicator, phthalates, have been generally linked to organ damage, lower I.Q. and asthma. What to try instead Using tampons without applicators will significantly cut down the plastic waste you generate. Brands like o.b. offer tampons that can be inserted with just your finger. Seventh Generation offers a chlorine-free, organic cotton tampon that reduces your exposure to chemicals. Organyc also offers a 100 percent organic cotton tampon. What about pads? Many people prefer pads for comfort or cultural reasons; however, the average sanitary pad contains “the equivalent of about four plastic bags, and this doesn’t include the other chemicals like BPA , BPS, phthalates and toxic dioxin created by the bleaching process.” Even though they have plastic in them, pads are never recyclable because they have been contaminated with bodily fluid. Because pads have a bigger volume than tampons, they produce even more waste. The average person throws away between 250 and 300 pounds of pads or tampons in their lifetime. What to use if you prefer pads There are reusable sanitary pads online that significantly reduce the amount of trash produced. Simply place the pad in your underwear; when it is dirty, rinse it with cold water and then add it to the laundry. You can buy reusable pads from Gladrags or find cute designs via Etsy. You can also try your hand at sewing your own . Disposable tampons and pads dominate the menstrual care market, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With small personal changes, you can protect your health, wallet and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

Athlete and activist runs across the US to raise awareness of plastic pollution

July 30, 2019 by  
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Sam Bencheghib, a 22-year-old athlete and environmental activist, has kicked off his effort to become the first person to run across America — and he’s doing it all to raise awareness about plastic pollution . Bencheghib’s initiative is a collaboration with his nonprofit Make a Change World and Parley for the Oceans. He started out his journey last week after a ceremony that included remarks from the Assistant Secretary General of the U.N. Environment Program. He will run 20 miles a day, six days a week, for five months, stopping in 13 states including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and California. Related: Man plans to swim the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution “In times of such environmental concern, we’re really on a countdown,” Bencheghib said. “I really believe that no idea is crazy enough and so I think that by running 3,000 miles, it’s definitely a crazy feat, but it’s a good metaphor to showcase the severity of the plastic problem in the ocean. It is also an incredible opportunity to engage with as many communities as possible to tell them about the effects of plastic.” Throughout his journey, Bencheghib will stop at schools and businesses to educate people about the plastic pollution crisis and encourage them to sign on to Parley’s pledge to take action. His advice is to avoid using plastic when possible, intercept plastic that is incorrectly heading to landfills or waterways and redesign plastic waste into recycled and upcycled materials. Bencheghib will be running in Adidas sneakers upcycled from ocean plastic in a marketing partnership with Parley. “Sam and his brother Gary have already proven with previous initiatives that the real superpower of change lies in courage and individual action,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans. “Everyone can change the world. Step by step. We need to include everyone in this conversation — fostering awareness and action to address these issues and drive solutions because they affect everyone, even those away from the coasts and major cities. This is an invitation to everyone who wants to rise up and have a role in the movement.” You can follow the Ocean2Ocean run via social media and watch video updates at www.makeachange.world . + Make A Change World + Parley for the Oceans Photography by Eric White and Charlie Rubin via Parley for the Oceans

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A Scandinavian nature resource gains a playful and modern barn-shaped building

July 30, 2019 by  
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One of northern Europe’s largest protected areas for wildlife has recently gained a new entrance building with an unexpectedly playful facade. Designed by Stockholm-based architectural office sandellsandberg , the modern structure, dubbed Outdoor Eriksberg, is the first of many new buildings planned for Eriksberg Hotel & Nature Reserve in southeastern Sweden’s Blekinge County. As a blend of contemporary and traditional influences, the entrance building references the traditional architecture of Blekinge with its barn-inspired shape and “Falu copper red” paint, while its curtain-like facade creates a decidedly modern vibe. Nicknamed the “Scandinavian safari,” the Eriksberg Nature Reserve is home to a wide variety of animals—including red deer, fallow deer, European bison, wild boar and mouflon— that roam the grounds spanning nine square kilometers. In recent years, the nature reserve has undergone further development to accommodate its growing number of visitors that average around 50,000 people every year. Currently, the estate includes a restaurant, hotel and event spaces. Although sandellsandberg was tapped to bring modern buildings to the nature reserve, the Swedish architecture firm didn’t shy away from taking inspiration from local traditional forms. The entrance building is reminiscent of the region’s traditional longhouses with its barn-shaped form, large windows and thatched roof. However, the two-story barn-shaped building’s contemporary feel comes through in its asymmetrical roof line that’s topped with a long and large skylight that allows the interior to become illuminated with natural light, while the curtain-like facade gives the building a cartoonish appearance. “Previously there was no distinct entrance to the nature reserve, which at times made visitors turn at the gates in confusion,” say the architects in their project statement. “Hence, the biggest challenges were to strengthen the site’s identity and give presumptive visitors a welcoming first impression of the reserve. These needs gave birth to the idea of a textile look where an unexpected curtain-shaped façade surprises and welcomes the visitor and like a curtain open up to the nature reserve.” Related: Farmhouse-inspired family home combines salvaged and sustainable materials Spanning an area of 600 square meters, the entrance building is a multipurpose space that not only welcomes guests to the Eriksberg Nature Reserve, but also hosts events space, office areas, storage, as well as retail and restaurant space. The ground floor houses a series of back offices , a cafe and a shop that sells homegrown produce. Above is a spacious exhibition area with additional retail space and storage. + sandellsandberg Images by Åke E:son Lindman

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A Scandinavian nature resource gains a playful and modern barn-shaped building

Cigarette butts, the No. 1 most-littered item, are impacting plant growth

July 22, 2019 by  
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In the frenzy to ban plastic utensils, foam containers, straws and single-use bags, the world’s No. 1 most-littered item has been mostly ignored: cigarette butts. Perhaps because they are small in size, two out of every three cigarettes are simply flung to the ground rather than properly disposed of. This adds up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts every year piling up in parks, cities and oceans. New research suggests that the butts are not just unsightly; they are also negatively impacting plants. A study published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety compared plants grown in soil containing cigarette butts with a group of control plants and found a significant difference. The plants grown in dirt with cigarettes had shoots that were up to 25 percent shorter with root biomass that was up to 60 percent smaller. Similar studies from as early as 1913 found similarly negative effects of cigarette smoke on plants , but few focus on the impact of butts within the soil. Related: California’s “Butt Lady” picks up 1M littered cigarette butts in 3.5 years Cigarettes are actually biodegradable but can take years to decompose. In the meantime, the discarded butts are filled with chemicals that, at this point, everyone knows are toxic and carcinogenic. Since the 1980s, urban and coastal clean-up events have reported that between 30 to 40 percent of the litter collected is typically cigarette butts. It is clearly a major issue in terms of pollution and waste, so why aren’t people outraged by it? Some environmental advocates argue that filters should be banned completely, since they have negligible health benefits to the smoker. Others argue that a deposit-and-return system could be established, where smokers must return their used butts in order to reclaim a deposit. This scheme seems fairly unlikely, but so did bans on plastic bags or diapers — yet municipalities and countries have successfully put them into effect. + Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety Via Phys.org Image via Pixabay

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Cigarette butts, the No. 1 most-littered item, are impacting plant growth

Nepalese volunteers clean 3 tons of trash from Mount Everest

May 10, 2019 by  
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Fourteen Nepalese volunteers collected three tons of garbage from Mount Everest in the first two weeks of their clean-up. The government-sponsored initiative is an effort to reduce growing amounts of garbage on the world’s tallest mountain. Nearly one-third of the garbage collected was taken by helicopter to recycling facilities in Kathmandu, while the remaining trash was sent to a landfill in the Okhaldhunga district. “The clean-up campaign will be continued in the coming seasons as well to make the world’s tallest mountain clean,” Dandu Raj Ghimire, Chief of the Nepalese Tourism Ministry, told Agence France-Presse. “It is our responsibility to keep our mountains clean.” Related: China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports In 2013, the Nepali government implemented a deposit system , requiring every climbing team to bring back 18 pounds of trash per person or lose $4,000 USD. Even despite this expensive deposit, less than half of the hikers returned with garbage. In February, Chinese base camps in Tibet reportedly closed their doors to tourists, limiting visitor traffic to just climbers. In the last 65 years, 4,000 people summited Mount Everest, with 807 in 2018 alone. Thousands more hikers and tourists visit the base camps at the bottom of the famous mountain yearly. With climbing season kicking off around April, the problem of trash remains a rising concern on both the Chinese and Nepalese sides of the mountain. The rising temperatures is causing ice and snow to melt , revealing garbage that was previously hidden. Climbing guides and sherpas say the trash problem gets worse as you get closer to the 29,000-foot summit, likely because exhausted and oxygen-deprived climbers welcome the lighter load that comes with leaving things behind. Related: Mount Everest’s melting glaciers expose the bodies of long-lost climbers Under the melting snow , the volunteer clean-up crew has collected tents, climbing equipment, oxygen tanks, bottles, cans, human excrement and even four bodies of missing climbers. The crew hopes to collect at least 10 tons of garbage by the end of their six-week volunteer clean-up effort. Via Yale Environment 360 Images via Mike ( 1 , 2 )

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Nepalese volunteers clean 3 tons of trash from Mount Everest

The reusable LastSwab might just be the last ear swab you ever buy

May 9, 2019 by  
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You may not think about it each day when you toss that cotton swab into the garbage after touching up your make-up or cleaning out your ears, but billions of people with the same habit create a massive amount of waste ! Fortunately, designers from Copenhagen, Denmark have come to the rescue with a reusable cotton swab. The LastSwab is potentially the last “cotton” swab you’ll ever need. Well, one of two anyway. The company offers the LastSwab for traditional applications and another one styled specifically for make-up . Like your typical cotton swab, the LastSwab is two-sided, catering to a multitude of needs. It’s as easy to use as any other swab, and the company advises that you use the same caution. After use, simply rinse the swab under water with a bit of soap and store it in the convenient carrying case, which is provided. The cases come in a variety of colors to suit your preferences. Related: Scotland to ban manufacture and sale of plastic cotton swabs LastSwab is the result of a dedicated effort to reduce waste and damage to marine animals . According to the Kickstarter campaign, “1.5 billion cotton swabs are produced every single day, and the average American uses 415 cotton swabs every year. In the U.K., damage is evident: For every 100 feet of beach, there are nine cotton swabs. Let’s make single-use cotton swabs a thing of the past!” The material is medical-grade silicone that is durable and strong yet delicate. Not only does this long-term solution eliminate immediate waste, but it reduces the emissions caused by the transport and repeated mass production of all sorts of cotton swabs. In a well-rounded plan to be friendly to the environment, the storage case for the LastSwab is biodegradable, and the package arrives in cardboard. Although the idea of reusing a cotton swab might sound cringey at first, it’s not so different from reusing your toothbrush each day or eating off the same plate after washing it. Obviously, many people support the movement, with nearly 12,000 backers pledging over $400,000 toward the meager $13,319 goal on the current Kickstarter campaign , which closes May 16, 2019. + LastSwab Images via LastSwab

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The reusable LastSwab might just be the last ear swab you ever buy

Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

May 2, 2019 by  
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Did you know that ghost nets are considered among the deadliest ocean debris in the world? The term refers not to haunting specters in the water, but discarded synthetic fishing nets that pollute the seabed and trap fish, mammals and other sea creatures. To raise awareness about these abandoned fishing nets and marine plastic pollution, Rotterdam-based research and design studio The New Raw has launched a new initiative called Second Nature that’s transforming the deadly ghost nets into 3D-printed seashells, bowls and other beautiful objects. The Second Nature project begins with the collection and sorting of the ghost gear depending on material type: nets, ropes, floaters or weights. The plastic waste is then processed in a grinder to create colorful and textured filament for the  3D printing projects. Second Nature currently operates out of a mobile lab located in the small Greek village of Galaxidi. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans “ Plastic is a major contributor to the pollution of the seas,” said Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki, founders of The New Raw. “However, living in urban regions, we tend to forget about our dependence on the sea, which is crucial to our food and oxygen supply. With Second Nature, we want to give plastic a second life.” The project also draws inspiration from five edible species of Mediterranean seashells — Mitra Zonata, Pecten Jacobeaus, Pinna Nobilis, Strombus Persicus and Tonna Galea — that are currently protected due to their intensive fishing. In giving the ghost nets a second life, Second Nature has created shell-shaped ornaments as well as a series of colorful tableware as part of its ongoing research project promoting a circular economy . The team plans to launch a new collection of objects in summer 2019 and have documented their process in a 10-minute short film by award-winning filmmaker Daphne Matziaraki, viewable here . + The New Raw Images via The New Raw

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Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

April 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Ghana are testing a system that will turn cocoa into biofuel  — but don’t worry — it uses the green waste produced during harvest, so you can still eat all of the chocolate! The project is funded by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and will be tested in Ghana, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar international industry, with the bulk of cocoa coming from Africa. “Every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks,” says Jo Darkwa , professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the project team leads. Husks are typically discarded during harvest after the beans are extracted. Usually, the husks are left to decompose on the cocoa plantation while the beans head to fermentation and drying facilities before they are turned into chocolate. Now, researchers have developed a system that will use the husks as feedstock to generate biofuel. The husks are processed into pellets, or bricks, that can burn in generators and produce “green” electricity. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa “Feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable biofuels and become an important energy supply for rural areas that only have 15 percent coverage at present,” explained Professor Darkwa. The many benefits of cocoa fuel This initiative is not only an innovate green technology, it also has other secondary benefits: Increase access to electricity If successful, the project could contribute to the Ghanaian government’s pledge to ensure 100 percent of Ghanaians have access to electricity by 2030. Reduce deforestation and improve climate and human health Currently, 80 percent of households in Ghana use wood as their main source of fuel for cooking and heating water. This practice not only leads to widespread deforestation in order to harvest wood, but indoor air pollution from wooden stoves is one of the top four leading risk factors for death worldwide. Create jobs If successful, the biofuel system would need workers to collect, transport , treat and process cocoa pod husks, which would create additional jobs and provide income for rural communities. Cocoa as chocolate, cocoa as compost Since it is the beans that are used to make chocolate, the husks are simply bio-waste, and therefore the biofuel system would not take away from farmers ’ profits in any way— in fact it would augment the profitability of the entire cocoa pod. However, cocoa pod waste is an important source of nutrients for cocoa trees. During harvest, ripe cocoa pods are collected and piled throughout the plantation. When the farmers are ready to extract the beans, the pods are cracked open and usually left in a heap to decompose. When husks biodegrade, they are an incredibly rich source of nutrients that help trees grow, improve soil quality and reduce plant disease. Studies show that the decaying pods host beneficial fungi and microbiotics, so will farmers and their crops be losing out on natural fertilizer if they ship their husks off to biofuel systems? Farmers with the capacity to do so might collect and bring the husks to an on-site composting location, but most small farmers do not have the capacity to process or evenly distribute the nutrients from the pile of decomposing husks and rely on nature to take its course. Farmers who do maximize the use of the compost may prefer to continue to do so, however those without that ability now have the option to profit from electricity generation instead. Testing the system in Ghana and the world “Undoubtedly, provision of sustainable energy services through cocoa pod husks would go a long way towards improving the quality of lives and thus alleviate poverty in rural communities as well as fight against climate change,” Professor Darkwa told Climate News Network . The project team is expected to test a prototype of their system at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in July 2019. The plan is to design, build and operate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns husks in a gasification system. Each system includes a gasifier, small generator, solar drier and pelletizer and costs approximately US $50,000. If the prototype is successful, the system could be replicated in other countries following additional feasibility studies. Via Climate News Network Images via Flickr ,  dghchocolatier

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7 Easy Ways to Plant a Tree Where It’s Needed Most

April 26, 2019 by  
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With this handy list of resources, you could plant a tree in a deforested or at-risk area of the globe with less than $10 and a few clicks on the Web. The post 7 Easy Ways to Plant a Tree Where It’s Needed Most appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Grocery giant ALDI announces 100% sustainable packaging by 2025

April 8, 2019 by  
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This week, supermarket chain ALDI pledged to offer 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging on all of their products by 2025. In a press statement released early this month, the company outlined their specific goals to reduce plastic packaging throughout their stores over the next five years. ALDI is a major grocery chain with 1,800 stores across 35 states. They serve more than 40 million customers every month and are in the position to make a huge impact on the products that Americans consume, as well as the packaging they receive items in and promptly throw out. The grocery giant has a long standing commitment to sustainability, and CEO Jason Hart explains their decision to step-up efforts to combat the global plastic pollution crisis. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 “ALDI has never offered single-use plastic shopping bags. And while we’re pleased that we’ve helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans, we want to continue to do more. The commitments we’re making to reduce plastic packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make.” ALDI’s press release also states: “In 2018, ALDI recycled more than 250,000 tons of materials, including paper, cardboard, plastic and metal. Through this recycling effort, ALDI avoided the greenhouse gas equivalent of 8,094,533 gallons of gasoline.” Approximately 90 percent of all products sold in ALDI are produced and packaged exclusively for ALDI. As the sole customer, the chain has incredible power to dictate how manufacturers package, ship and present their items. However, just because the packaging is recyclable does not mean that customers will recycle it. While ALDI’s immense step forward shows remarkable growth, in order for the grocery store’s ambitious sustainability plan to be successful it ultimately relies on awareness, support and action from millions of customers. Via Treehugger Image via Mike Mozart

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